Data Integration Platform vs. Custom Integration: How to Make It Better?

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
April 23, 2021
Data Integration Platform vs. Custom Integration: How to Make It Better?
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
April 23, 2021
Data Integration Platform vs. Custom Integration: How to Make It Better?
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
April 23, 2021
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CEO at Aspirity
Written by
This article was written
in collaboration with
Denis Z.
CTO at Aspirity
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Just like back in the days during the notorious "war of the currents" when leading electricity inventors fiercely battled in rivalry over the dominant type of electric current — AC or DC; nowadays, we see how IT companies and development teams argue which integration solution is better — data integration platforms vs. custom integrations.

At the starting point of just about any integration project, there's an important fork road: to go with a data integration project or to choose a custom integration. Data integration platform uses pre-built off-the-shelf apps which are quickly adjusted and configured to meet business requirements, rarely undergoing light customization.

Custom integration is building unique individually tailored IT applications from scratch to the specific customer requirements. Let's take a closer look at each method to find out which one is better.

Benefits of Custom Integration

The custom integration approach looks very attractive for its scalability, adaptability, and direct focus on a specific type of business. All you need to get started is a programmer with a text editor. You build a custom-tailored solution remaining king of the hill in your IT architecture, owning the source code and development rights. Let's list the benefits of custom integration.

Precise integration solution

Here you see an effective, crisp, and clear rational IT-solution implementation. A company buys exactly what's necessary to fulfill its business goals and produce the functionality needed. Custom integration goes without any questionable extra functionalities that finally may remain unused.

Easy and fast to tune

It's often the case that a company needs to rework an entire business setup and reengineer business processes to implement an out-of-the-box DI platform. It's a costly exercise, and some of your employees may not get over it.

With a custom integration solution, you don't have to make the tail wag the dog. IT functionality builds a natural way around existing business environments.
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Quick adoption by personnel

Since little or nothing is changed in your operational procedures, it's seamless — a business works as usual after a custom integration system implementation. So, your employees are happy, training budgets under control, and productivity growth achieved with new functionality.

Flexible and easy to update

A custom integration solution is a sort of soft clay in the hands of your developers. You can change virtually anything at any time and the sky's the limit.

You own the source code

No one will meddle into your affairs, trying to get you hooked on services and updates and offer new implementations under the threat of software obsolescence.

Your company stays independent

It may better steer IT budgets and the development of a corporate architecture for functional areas. Build independent IT architecture with no need to check up on what's cooking at major DI vendors' headquarters.

Benefits of Data Integration platforms

If you don't have time to develop your solution, or you don't have a large budget, ready-made data integration platforms are your way out. There is popular software in this niche, such as Alooma, Boomi, Fivetran, Hitachi Vantara, Informatica Intelligent Data Platform, etc.

The data integration platform is a kind of ready-to-eat IT dish cooked, catered, and served to your table by a major IT software vendor through a system integration company.

It feels nice and impressive, like a dinner in an upscale restaurant, provided you have financial means and desire to repeat this expensive dinner whenever you have an IT appetite. Let's list the benefits of data integration platforms.

Ready-to-implement product

You can quickly and easily set up a model business process with every step supported by a data integration platform.
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Includes all the necessary functions and modules

All functionality needed is at your fingertips. A system integration provider and data integration platform vendor have profound implementation experience with vast libraries of successful cases to help you out.

Assistance from the vendor

A system integration provider may set up an implementation project to tune up and customize a data integration platform to your needs. It usually offers both assistance in business methodology, business process reengineering, and assistance and support in setting up IT modules. Besides, it provides the necessary system customization and employees training.

Technical support and additional modules

DI platform vendors run consulting, technical, and business support operations with multiple areas of competence and lines of support standing behind the product.

Custom Integration vs. Data Integration Platform:
Which is better?

Let's walk through the entire development and integration process and take a detailed look at the Pros and Cons of custom integration vs. data integration platform.

Quick start

With a data integration platform, there's little or no hurdle to turn-key the project right away with out-of-the-box templates bringing you all the functionality needed. In case some custom elements are still required, starting the whole thing seems quicker and easier.

On the other hand, with custom-builds, you need to put a little or no money down to start development and integration. All you need there is a programmer and a text editor application.

Mapping data with ease

Here, a data integration platform offers you special built-in mapping tools. It is built to specifically handle different field types, intricate data comparisons, and complex validation procedures. Yes, it surely saves time and resources in complicated mapping tasks.

On the downside, if that built-in thing finally fails to do the job, you'll end up mapping with simple electronic tables anyways. But money already spent. Besides, your data analysts are already hooked on working with the mapping application, while mapping with simple tables may require a more advanced skill.

Data transfers orchestration

Data exchange and data integration may include different types of data transfers: incremental, snapshot, timestamp, or date-specific set-ups. A data integration platform allows you to instantly schedule the timetable and data exchange process windows.

In favor of custom integration, keep in mind that universal functionality will always be inferior to specialized data exchange and data orchestration applications. A seasoned developer will always prefer using a specialized application.

Catching bugs and errors

Error handling, bug fixing, and quick resolution of incidents are vital priorities to data integration success. Data integration platforms have that functionality built-in reporting the issues to a sysadmin with all error links and attributes. That way, it's easy for a sysadmin to locate and contain the problem quickly.

Again, on the custom integration side, you have highly specialized data transfer and integration maintenance applications. It will probably do a better job if your developers are skilled enough. And, yes, these applications certainly ain't free. So, it's totally up to you to decide where to put your money the wisest way.

Sync your systems

After the development stage is over, a data integration platform will continue to stand behind the integration solution by supporting, maintaining the data ops, reporting, and taking care of issues.

On the other hand, if the complexity of your corporate architecture is significant, custom integrated systems and specialized IT service management applications may do a better job.
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Handling updates

With a data integration platform, it's effortless and cheap to run updates. No code needs to be changed or rewritten. The update functionality is a built-in feature.

In favor of a custom system, note that you may run the new version development, testing, releasing, and updating throughout the DevOps pipe without hurting the current version functionality. That is, if your IT operation is large enough to handle constant DevOps processes, data integration solutions over time are getting old and outdated. And here we go — you need to purchase and set up a new one again.

In the long run, it's tricky to figure out "cheap or expensive" for either one.

Easy to grow

Data integration platform allows you to use existing integrations as the part for new integration when you need it to expand to changing business requirements. When your business scales, it's easy to copycat and enlarge existing integration solutions at no extra cost.

On the other hand, "easy" and "cheap" do not necessarily mean strategically sound and wise on the money. When your business is growing to the point that the entire IT architecture needs to be constantly changed, custom-integrated systems will do a better job.

Our Experience

Aspirity has successfully implemented a custom integration solution for Tasket.

Initial customer requirements were:

  • To integrate systems and create a one-app service for handling user comprehensive working task records and personal objectives

  • To integrate various incoming tasks from different sources into the user's chosen apps Todoist or Microsoft Todo.

We started with bare ideas, and design draft scratches turned them into a full-fledged SaaS service with a wide range of customizable integrations.

Major difficulties:

  • The service didn't provide the integration documentation process

  • Some functions didn't work the way they supposed to

  • The scripts we wrote required complicated workarounds
Despite these hurdles, we managed to complete the project on time.

  • 2015 — project started
  • 2017 — software deployed
  • 2018 — beta stage
  • 2019 — public bets stage
  • December 2019 — project successfully released.
Users now can:

  • customize integrations with manual or set default settings
  • coordinate tasks with easily adjusted controls.

Final Thoughts

There are undoubtedly major pros and cons to either custom development or data integration solution. Regardless of which side you're on if your company is considering IT development and data integration options, Aspirity experience, skills, and expertise may help.
This article was written in collaboration with Denis Z. — CTO at Aspirity
For more than 2,5 years, I've been working as CEO at Aspirity. I help professionals launch digital products by providing dedicated development teams.
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